The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released an interesting study that highlights the complexity of Americans' religious beliefs, especially Americans' willingness to believe in things officially at odds with their stated religion. For example: The religious beliefs and practices of Americans do not fit neatly into conventional categories. A new poll by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life finds that large numbers of Americans engage in multiple religious practices, mixing elements of diverse traditions. Many say they attend worship services of more than one faith or denomination -- even when they are not traveling or going to special events like weddings and funerals. Many also blend Christianity with Eastern or New Age beliefs such as reincarnation, astrology and the presence of spiritual energy in physical objects. And sizeable minorities of all major U.S. religious groups say they have experienced supernatural phenomena, such as being in touch with the dead or with ghosts.
Further, Though the U.S. is an overwhelmingly Christian country, significant minorities profess belief in a variety of Eastern or New Age beliefs. For instance, 24% of the public overall and 22% of Christians say they believe in reincarnation -- that people will be reborn in this world again and again. And similar numbers (25% of the public overall, 23% of Christians) believe in astrology. Nearly three-in-ten Americans say they have felt in touch with someone who has already died, almost one-in-five say they have seen or been in the presence of ghosts, and 15% have consulted a fortuneteller or a psychic.
Most interesting to me, as a Pagan and ecofeminist, was the study's finding that: [Twenty-six percent of adults say that] they believe in spiritual energy located in physical things such as mountains, trees or crystals, and 25% profess belief in astrology (that the position of the stars and planets can affect people's lives). Fewer people (16%) believe in the "evil eye" or that certain people can cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen to someone. Many people have pointed out that the modern tendency to see the Earth as dead matter and matter as fallen helps to allow people to pollute the Earth, Air, and Water. For increasing numbers of people to see mountains and trees, for example, as imbued with "spiritual energy" -- which the study seems to not define -- has to be a good thing.
In total, upwards of six-in-ten adults (65%) express belief in or report having experience with at least one of these diverse supernatural phenomena (belief in reincarnation, belief in spiritual energy located in physical things, belief in yoga as spiritual practice, belief in the "evil eye," belief in astrology, having been in touch with the dead, consulting a psychic, or experiencing a ghostly encounter). This includes roughly one-quarter of the population (23%) who report having only one of these beliefs or experiences. More than four-in-ten people (43%) answer two or more of these items affirmatively, including 25% who answer two or three of these items affirmatively and nearly one-in-five (18%) who answer yes to four or more. Roughly one-third of the public (35%) answers no to all eight items. Sixty percent of the population is a surprisingly large group, especially when you consider that most xian churches would say that, for example, consulting a psychic or believing in astrology is a sin. It's interesting to contrast this with the control that, for example, the catholic bishops exercise over our political life.
The survey doesn't appear to have examined how willing Pagans are to adopt some beliefs/practices from mainstream religion, but that would be a fascinating study, as well, I think. My own experience is that many Pagans are willing, for example, to revere the Virgin Mary as a manifestation of the Goddess, to accept that the religious practices of various religious groups, such as speaking in tongues, can raise energy that can be directed towards a given purpose, etc.
Where would you come out on the survey? How many of the things they survey have you done/do you believe in?
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."